After a quick 13hr flight (I slept like a baby) we landed in Kuala Lumpur. I ordered a Grab taxi to the hotel for RM75 including toll (approx £14/18 USD). It can take up to two hours to drive into the city centre depending on traffic. We had the joy of sitting in gridlock traffic as everyone was breaking their fast.
Despite arriving during the craziest thunderstorm ever, the ground was bone dry by the time we were showered and ready to leave. Our first stop was the infamous Jalan Alor for street food (of course). The best food in Asia is always street food and it’s super affordable, even in expensive cities such as Singapore. We walked along the strip assessing the ‘best’ place to eat before deciding. We chose the busiest spot and ordered a spread of dishes to share including Chicken Wings, Battered Prawns, Deep Fried Squid, Hokkien Mee (noodles) and Fried Rice. I also had the most delicious lychee juice! In total, we spent just under £30 (38 USD) on everything including two large Tigers.
We continued exploring the local area passing by (non-seedy) massage parlours that open until 5 am and a bar strip. Every bar had a ‘happy hour’ so we ventured into the one playing the best music (Hip Hop and R&B). Unfortunately, the ‘cocktails’ were just syrupy mocktails with no alcohol – scam! The waiter explained that happy hour drinks only contained half a shot of alcohol (what?!) but he would give us free shots to compensate. In hindsight, we should have politely declined, settled the bill and left. Instead, we took the shots in the name of pre-drinks for our next stop.
Heli Lounge Bar is a rooftop bar with great views of the iconic Petronas Towers. We allegedly had ‘the best views’ in the bar from our table and I have to say it was pretty impressive. It was the perfect start to our holiday and we soon forgot about the cocktail scam. We took the remainder of our bottle home in a cute branded bag and ordered a Grab. Unlike Uber, we were able to
bribe pay our driver to swing by KFC. I don’t care what the purists say about eating fast food abroad; KFC in Malaysia (specifically the popcorn chicken) is lit!
We were up bright and early for breakfast only to be hit with the worst hangovers ever. I was physically sick, dizzy and unable to cope with the sunlight beaming through the curtains. I ordered breakfast to my room (just toast and fruit) and struggled to eat any of it. After Googling ‘can you die from a hangover,’ I slept until early afternoon with the realisation we’d probably consumed fake alcohol. It had to be the free shots) as Hennessey would never! All jokes aside, it definitely wasn’t a normal feeling because we ate before and after drinking and my sister (who didn’t take the shot) was fine. I hate losing time (and my appetite) on holiday but such is life.
Nothing fixes things like a slice of cake so we went to the local bakery to indulge. When it rains in KL, it pours so we spent the afternoon at Suria KLCC mall to avoid the showers. What do you get when you put two skincare junkies and a makeup lover on a trip to KL? A spending spree in Sephora and every beauty outlet in the mall! I’m not usually one to shop on holiday (except for that time I went crazy in Bali) but the K-Beauty shopping experience in Kuala Lumpur is incredible. Aside from actually being able to try the products, the service and attention to detail are second to none. They were also very generous with the samples unlike many counters in the UK.
After we’d exhausted KLCC, we headed to the Pavillion Mall which very quickly became my favourite. I visited several times during my stay and continued to discover new things; there’s a ‘hidden’ restaurant strip parallel to the shops on one of the floors. A massive food court in the basement with everything from homemade brownies to firm favourites such as Cold Stone Creamery. They also have free Wi-Fi throughout. I recommend visiting KLCC for great photos of the Petronas Towers, but shopping and hanging out at Pavillion Mall instead. This part of the city (The Golden Triangle) reminded me the most of Singapore but with better street style. Honestly, I was getting inspiration left, right and centre; it’s definitely where all the cool kids are!
Hanging out at malls and bar hopping is fun but it’s important to soak up some culture too. We ventured to the Batu Caves on our final day to visit one of KL’s most popular sites. It was intense. The cute but vicious monkeys are terrifying and will steal anything they can get their hands on. We were also swarmed Chinese tourists asking/sneaking/insisting on taking pictures of/with us. I know almost every Black person who’s visited Asia can relate! On this particular day, it was super aggravating because there was so much going on at once. It was impossible to take good photos in the midst of all the craziness. We couldn’t wait to get back to the city!
I’ll be honest by saying Kuala Lumpur wasn’t a city I immediately fell in love. Everyone says it was like Singapore (or better, depending on who you ask) but I just didn’t feel the magic. I had fun, but I left feeling pretty ‘meh’ about KL until an unexpected turn of events. You’ll have to wait for part three for more on that though!
I loved the energy of the Malaysian people and their passion for food. We encountered a Grab driver who told us ‘vegans are missing out on the good stuff’. He advised us to eat spicy Malay food in the day then opt for Chinese food after 11 pm. I definitely think not exploring the city via public transport impacted my experience. Grab works out cheaper, especially as a group and is way more convenient. Nevertheless, it was time to say goodbye to Kuala Lumpur and head to Penang!
Top Tips for Your Trip To Kuala Lumpur:
- I’d recommend staying in the Golden Triangle/Bukit Bintang area near Pavillion Mall. It’s centrally located and has the best hotels.
- Download the ‘Grab’ app for on-demand taxis. Metered taxis are more expensive and often try to (illegally) barter a price. The average 10-minute Grab ride with no traffic is about RM6 (£1/1.43 USD).
- Most outlets don’t accept multiple card payments. Either take it in turns to pay within a group or send one person the money…or use cash.
- If you’re in need of a wax, Strip inside Suria KLCC mall (4th floor) does an amazing job!
- You can rent a locker at the airport for a daily fee if you’ll be taking several domestic flights. We did lots of shopping and picked up our goods on our return. It’s convenient and affordable especially if you can split the costs.
- AirAsia weigh your bags before security at KLIA2 and have a strict limit of 7kg (8kg at a push). We had to pay approximately £30 (38 USD) in checked baggage fees for three cabin bags at the airport.
- Stick to hotels and four stars on Google venues for alcohol!
- Milo is a thing here! I shared this on my Instagram Stories and Twitter but Milo is widely available everywhere – even in McDonald’s! If you know, you know!
- KFC and McDonald’s are both worth trying during your stay; it’s also an opportunity to get free Wi-Fi.
- British passport holders don’t need a visa for the first 90 days. Just make sure your jabs are up to date!